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Democratizing the politics, management, and access to essential water and sanitation services

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Esteban CastroORCiD


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The paper argues that achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals set by the international community for the year 2030, which includes the universalization of access to essential water and sanitation services, requires radical action to overcomes serious obstacles. In particular, it is needed to abandon the prevailing approach promoted by international financial institutions, governments, donors, and private corporations that aim to organize the delivery of these services on market, for-profit principles. Given that most the unserved population in the planet is composed of marginalized and poor, vulnerable communities, what is needed is an approach like the one that allowed rich developed countries to achieve full universalization of these services during the Twentieth Century. This was made possible through decisive State intervention to ensure the access to quality water and sanitation for everyone, independently of their capacity to pay. This principle was enshrined in the notions of public good and social citizenship rights in the most civilized capitalist democracies. The paper argues that there is no reason to expect that the democratization of the politics, management and access to these services at the global level, as committed in the SGDs, could happen without a similar approach, based on decisive State intervention, abandoning the prevailing public policies that seek the commodification of these essential services. The paper concludes with specific recommendations, derived from the results of recent international research projects.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Castro JE

Editor(s): Liberman L, Sacco G and Zagari, A

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Human Right to Water. An Interdisciplinary Focus and Contributions on the Central Role of Public Policies in Water and Sanitation Management

Year of Conference: 2017

Pages: 181-209

Online publication date: 01/11/2017

Acceptance date: 03/07/2017

Date deposited: 04/04/2018

Publisher: Pontifical Academy of Sciences